The withdrawal of South African national players — AB de Villiers, Tabriz Shamsi (both Royal Challengers Bangalore), Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada (both Delhi Daredevils), Hashim Amla, David Miller (both Kings XI Punjab), Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir (both Rising Pune Supergiant) — from the ongoing Indian Premier League is a major blow only to RPS. They are the only serious contenders among the four franchises for a berth in the playoffs and not having Tahir, their main spinner, could hit them hard.
The South African players returned to their country on Sunday, as per their Board’s agreement with Board of Control for Cricket in India, to prepare for the Champions Trophy. South Africa and India, along with Pakistan and Sri Lanka are placed in the same group at the Champions Trophy, to be played in England from 1 to 18 June.
The absence of Tahir and de Plessis will no doubt be a big setback for RPS. However, it must be pointed out that had the BCCI decided to pull out of the Champions Trophy at their meeting in New Delhi last Sunday thereby wrecking the event, it is possible that players from other nations, notably England and Australia, would have also been withdrawn from IPL in retaliation.
In that case, with only the West Indies cricketers among overseas players around (WI failed to qualify for CT), the closing stages of the IPL league and playoffs would have seen a slightly better fare than the Vijay Hazare Trophy, India’s domestic inter-state limited overs tournament!
No wonder those worrying most about the outcome of the tug-of-war between BCCI and ICC were the television channels! Sony would have been concerned about the potential damage to their books if there was a truncated IPL during the finishing stages while Star India, who recently returned seven regional channel licences to the Government, might have been forced to return the sports license too if India opted out of CT! For, in that case, there would not have been any business model for Star India to bank on.
Thus, whether the BCCI is bidding its time or struck a behind-the-scenes deal with other members of the ICC is difficult to confirm. But the fact that acting secretary, Amitabh Choudhary, preferred to stay low key at the meeting suggests that there is some planning going on, said sources.
Apparently, former BCCI president N Srinivasan, who joined the meeting on Skype from an overseas location, told the members not to boycott the Champions Trophy and instead concentrate on correcting the ICC governance model which, he said, would have long term consequences for the future of Indian cricket.
He cautioned the BCCI members of its pitfalls and said that unless the new proposals were struck down Indian cricket stood to lose big time.
That apart, the worrying aspect in cricket circles is the lack of leadership within BCCI. The abrupt removal of seasoned administrators, including bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen and industrialists has created such a terrible void in leadership that it is actually working to the detriment of Indian cricket.
“ICC read the situation correctly. They knew that the existing BCCI members were pushovers, with neither the charisma nor qualities needed to take hard decisions. Additionally the COA was out of depth in matters related to cricket, board, other nations and ICC. That is the only reason why the ICC chose this time to launch such a concerted assault on Indian cricket.
“They’ve hit at everything, governance structure and finance included, all at one go, to ensure that things are done and dusted before BCCI could once again find its feet and fight back. If Srinivasan had been given a free hand and sent to the ICC meeting, all these plotters would have run away,” a source said.
Sources, however, insist that the last word has not been heard on this. They point out that BCCI was badly betrayed by Bangladesh and swore they’ll make them pay.
“They promised all sorts of things and ensured they got invited to play the one-off Test in India. This was the first time they were being hosted for a Test here. But after that they have not lived up to their promises. They’ve let down Indian cricket very badly and will be made to pay for it, irrespective of who comes to power in BCCI. Everything that Bangladesh got, Test status, opportunity to host World Cup matches, Champions Trophy, etc was because of BCCI. They seem to have forgotten that.”
Of course the cash for votes at the working group which excluded India, swayed Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and West Indies. But that money, while it may be humongous to these nations, will not last long. The first three names may not get to play a bilateral series with India for a long, long time to come.
England and Australia are smarter. They’ve got others to do the dirty work and would now ensure that the Indian board is kept happy. In turn they would have worked out lucrative bilateral series under the Future Tours Programme with India. They’ll prosper. It is the ones that struck their neck out who’ll get the chop.